Physical therapy students to wed after commencement

Madelyn & KellanWhile post-commencement life can be uncertain for many graduating college students, Madelyn Di Orio and Kellan Barry made big plans before this school year ever began. The third-year physical therapy students in The University of North Texas Health Science Center’s School of Health Professions will tie the knot in June.

The pair met as freshman as undergraduates at Texas Lutheran University in Seguin, Texas, and both knew long before graduation they wanted to pursue physical therapy as a career. They applied to the same PT schools in hopes that could stay together. For Di Orio, a San Antonio native, HSC was her first choice. Barry, who was born and raised in Seguin, also wanted to come to Fort Worth, though he was more of a mind to start his PT education as soon as possible.

Both were interviewed by HSC on the same day and ultimately landed on the waiting list. Barry received his acceptance email first.

“I was a little jealous because I was still on the wait list,” Di Orio said. “At that point, I thought, ‘There’s no way I’m going get in. That would be too good to be true for me to get into the school I really want to go to, and for us to be able to go together. I just don’t foresee that.’”

Months later, just as the department was finalizing its cohort, Di Orio received a call from the DPT asking if she wanted to remain on the waiting list. She enthusiastically said yes. She received her acceptance email the next day.

For Barry, his HSC journey almost ended during the interview process thanks to technical problems. After logging on to the Zoom meeting — a still relatively novel concept in 2021 — he realized his audio wasn’t working. With just five minutes before the interviews began, Barry scrambled to log on using his phone, which was dead. Hunched over and tethered to a short charging chord near his parent’s desk (in an office without air conditioning), he realized he hadn’t yet downloaded the Zoom app. Once he did that and created a new account, he finally logged on, his heart having left his body at some point during the download. It was a close call, but he made his interview. As luck would have it, his would-be interviewer was stuck in traffic and running late.

“I was honestly traumatized,” he laughed. “I was so emotionally disturbed from that little freak out. I kept thinking, ‘I have to get in to go through this. I have to get into the school.’ And luckily, I did. Some of the kids in the class have mentioned it: ‘Remember that kid whose wifi quit working during the interview?’ ‘Yeah, that was me. I was that kid.’”

Amb Pinning 4536HSC was Di Orio’s first choice, she said, for a few reasons. The school has an excellent reputation; she was very interested in pursuing neurological physical therapy, a specialty of several HSC faculty; and her father is from Fort Worth and she still has family in the area. She also said the interview process seemed the most genuine.

“I think out of all the interviews I had that were online, it was the one that felt the most personable,” she said. “I felt like the questions they were asking were more about my character and values than they were about just, ‘Why do you want be a physical therapist?’ And I really loved it. That’s actually why I ended up becoming a student ambassador, because I loved my interview so much in the student panel. I could really see myself becoming a student here.”

Dr. Michael Furtado, chair of SHP’s Department of Physical Therapy, recognized that it’s difficult to maintain relationships during a rigorous doctoral preparation. That they not only stayed together, but their relationship flourished while in PT school, speaks to the strength of their bond, he said.

“Madelyn and Kellan came into PT school at HSC as a couple, and now they graduate together on the cusp of being married,” he said. “It is heartwarming for all of us to have been a part of that story with them. They each had their own individual successes and accomplishments and can look back on their time at HSC with fondness. Their story is one of love and sacrifice, and we could not be happier for them and their bright future. Congratulations to the soon to be Mr. and Mrs. Dr Barry.”

The soon-to-be married couple plans to move back to San Antonio after commencement. Barry already has a job interview lined up at a clinic working with a PT he met during his stint as a tech. Di Orio is currently applying for outpatient and inpatient rehab jobs.

“I have some interest in pelvic floor, vestibular as well as neuro,” she said. “I’m kind of unsure of what I want to do, but I think that that’s the beauty of physical therapy. You really can do it all if you want.”

Long-term, the two said they want to start clinic that caters to low-income and underserved patients.

“We want to do a a cash-based clinic and offer it at a lower price for people who can’t afford to go to physical therapy,’ Barry said. “A lot of people don’t even have health insurance. The main goal is just to show that you can treat people without insurance, but also not break the bank from it.”

The most enduring part of their experience at HSC, Barry and Di Orio said, was the relationships they forged with faculty and their fellow students.

“Two of the girls in our class are bridesmaids at our wedding,” Di Orio said. “You have to get really close really fast. We’re spending all this time with these people. I think that we grew a lot closer too, just going through the rigorous curriculum and the difficulty of it. I definitely think the relationships we’ve made here will last for a very long time.”

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